Review: Free Comic Book Day 2010

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Well, I could pretty much copy my intro from last year’s FCBD coverage. I did pretty much the same thing. I didn’t go to the comic book store, instead spending my time with boxing, beer, and babes. I got my free comics early, so I can still review these things.

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Top 5 Best Comics of January 2010

I read 17 comics in January, and these were the best.

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Review: Kick-Ass #6

Kick Ass #6

(***1/2)

I like this comic. I know it’s gotten a lot of flak, most of that is probably due to Millar’s hype. Oh, and it’s already becoming a movie, which is also lame. Now, whenever Big Daddy talks, I can’t get Nicholas Cage’s voice out of my head, and that’s a bad thing. Still, I actually do care about the characters. Yes, it’s not high-brow entertainment, but it is entertainment. It brings out the fifteen-year-old in me. The part that wants to bitch about movies and comics (What adult would do that?). The part that can relate to doing anything to get a cute girl. The part that wants to go out, dressed in all black and wearing a hockey mask, and beat the shit out of some assholes.

As you can tell from the cover, this issue features the origin of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. It’s all pretty standard stuff, with Millar himself admitting as much through his character: “This guy was Frank fucking Castle.” Millar also makes this gruesome duo extreme conservatives, spouting lines like: “The dictionary definition of a Democrat? A fucked-up prick who will march for the right to murder babies, but hold candlelight vigils for serial killers.” This issue also contains a classic Millar cliffhanger. It’s a bit predictable if you’ve been paying attention to solicitations, but still appreciated. So, I’m a fan of Millar. I enjoy the fact that he points out his own unoriginality. I enjoy the pop culture references and the realistic touches. Hell, I even enjoy little things, such as Hit-Girl setting up name tags for Kick-Ass and Red Mist. And don’t forget, folks. John Romita Jr. kicks ass!

Top Ten Best Comic Artists

Why this list? I don’t know; I like lists! This is something I’ve thought about for awhile, but I’ve never had the organization skills to execute this idea. Well, I stopped bothering with some things (Sure, the west half of my house is on fire, but who cares?!?) so I could finally create the awesome list you’re about to experience.

Just to be clear, these are my top ten working artists. All ten of them produced interior work on at least one comic last year. Enjoy!

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10. Ed McGuinness

McGuinness is the Wolverine of comic artists. He’s the best there is at what he does. And what he does is draw big muscular cartoony fun! Hulk is the PERFECT book for him. The man was born to draw it. Throw in an extensive Superman (And later Batman) run and you’ve got plenty of pretty beefy heroes to look at. Did I mention that his art is a fantastic model for toys as well? Check it out! Sure, he doesn’t have much range and he’s a bit lazy, but if I ever need anyone to find a vein on my arm, I’ll go to him!

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9. Frank Cho

After criticizing EM’s range, I put Frank Cho? Am I crazy? Maybe, but Cho does actually have some range. Go check out his Spider-Man issues with Mark Millar. Sure MJ had big boobs, but his Venom was badass. He also renders some fantastic animals. Who draws Dinosaurs and monkeys better than Frank Cho? And yes, he draws some bodacious babes, but is that really such a bad thing? Yes they’re a bit crude, but it works with an American audience. We’re a bit too uptight when it comes to the female form. Cho just puts it out there. Too preachy? I like big boobs. Better? The fact is his women are tough, sexy, and usually pretty muscular. They can kick the shit out of the men. That’s a kind of female power, right?

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8. Steve McNiven

Good, we’re away from the cartoons. Steve McNiven is pretty new to the art scene. Ok, he’s been in the biz for about eight years, but I can count his projects with my fingers. I’ve always considered myself a fan of the man’s work, but his most recent project, Old Man Logan, is what got him on the list. Have you seen that stuff? It’s fucking epic! He’s created an entire future Marvel Universe, aged character designs, and zany stuff like a Venom T-Rex. He’s nailed them all. There’s no doubt in my mind that in ten years when fans discuss the best Wolverine artists, McNiven will be mentioned in the same sentence as Frank Miller and Barry Windsor-Smith. As if that weren’t enough, he also did a stellar job on Civil War, and whether you enjoyed that event or not, at least you were treated to some gorgeous images.

7. Tim Sale

Say what you want about Jeph Loeb, but when he and Sale get together, you get magic. I just picked up that new Daredevil Yellow hardcover a few weeks ago and Sale’s art was absolutely mystifying. His Daredevil is poetic. Sale captured the fallen hero, Battlin’ Jack Murdock, perfectly. Don’t even get me started on his Karen Page. Lois Lane, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, Selina Kyle, Tim Sale has rendered some of the most iconic women in comics and yet he always brings something new to the table. Sale is an expert at taking old characters, blowing off the dust, and making them look all shiny and new again.

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6. JH Williams III

Whoa! JH Williams III is number six? How the hell did that happen? Because Williams is awesome, that’s why. He’s an artistic chameleon. If you read his three-issue arc in Batman recently, you’ll know that every member of the Club of Heroes had a different art style. El Gaucho is Howard Chaykin, The Knight and the Squire are Ed McGuinness, and so on. On top of that, Williams has some of the most interesting layouts in comic history. If you want to see some expert graphic design, Williams is your man. How he presents his art is almost as intriguing as the art itself. Heck, the only reason why Williams isn’t higher on the list is his lack of content (Or perhaps my lack of reading his content), but with an absolute Promethea volume and his long-awaited Batwoman run coming up, Williams is sure to make my top five soon.

5. John Romita Jr.

And speaking of Williams’ lack of content, here’s a man who has too much content. Romita has been in the biz for nearly three decades. That’s awesome, but what usually happens to artists over time is that their style gets boring. Not so with Romita, his style has evolved. Going from the traditional look of his Iron Man days, to the Kirby/Miller amalgam, Romita has proved that he’s still one of the best. Want proof? While some of the artists on this list (Even those ahead of him, sadly) produce only a few issues a year, Romita is the opposite. In just two years, he worked on a Neil Gaiman project for seven issues, a mega Marvel event for five, a six-issue return to Spider-Man, and an entirely new property with Mark Millar. Throw in directing part of a movie (An illustrated Kick-Ass segment) and you have one fabulous work ethic!

4. Joseph Michael Linsner

This is where you can stop calling my list predictable. What can I say? I feel a deep connection with Linsner’s work. There are times when I think he’s my favorite artist. His style is Cartoony yet realistic. Linsner’s women are cheesecake, yet independent and strong.  The man’s work is truly transcendent. I can just stare at for days and days. The Hulk is probably a poor example (Though funny), but please go check out his work. If you feel half the connection with it that I do, it’ll be a wondrous experience.

3. Alex Ross

What’s a “best comic artists” list without Alex Ross? Actually, when I was compiling this list, his name slipped my mind. Terry Dodson was on for quite a while, but eventually (Sorry Terry), an image of Kingdom Come Superman blazed across my mind. How is it, that a character that said so little and was part of so few stories can be as incredibly inspirational as Kingdom Come Superman? I blame Alex Ross. He brings such power and solitude to the grey-haired Man of Steel. It was hammered home this year; KC Superman is the symbol for the man who has unimaginable power, and yet he can’t save the ones he loves. A much bleaker ending than the one Jeph Loeb gave him in Absolute Power, but it’s still undeniably moving. Though Ross spends a little too much time rendering covers and writing nostalgic tales for my taste, Justice, Marvels and Kingdom Come are so well-crafted that he easily earns a spot on the list.

2. Frank Quitely

Remember what I said about Sale and Loeb being magic? Well, that goes triple for Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. See that picture above? Why did I choose that instead of something like New X-Men and All Star Superman? Because you already know those are great, but you may have never heard of We3. You should definitely read it because it’s fantastic, and that’s what every project is that Quitely works on. His art is truly unique and I mean that in the best possible way. Quitely handles everything, action, facial expressions, and emotion, all of it, like the master he is. The only reason Quitely isn’t number one is because his art has greatly evolved into marvelous beauty within the last five years. My number one, however, has always been at the top of his game.

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1. Jim Lee

I never thought Jim Lee would be my number one. It makes sense; Batman is my favorite hero, so it’s only natural that the quintessential Batman artist is my favorite. Lee has always demonstrated greatness. Whether your first experience was X-Men, WildC.A.T.s, Batman, or even way back to Punisher War Journal, you were probably impressed. He’s worked on a few bad projects, sure. That won’t stop you from gazing at his beautiful interiors though. Why do you think All Star Batman and Robin is a best-seller? Its gloriously groundbreaking dialogue? I think not. Whether the words accompanying his art were good or not, I’ve always enjoyed Lee’s renderings immensely.

So there’s the list. I doubt you’ll agree completely. “Good art” is purely opinionated. I only wish that if you haven’t heard of one of these talented men (Why isn’t Amanda Conner on the list?), you’ll go check them out. Hopefully, you’re in for a treat.

-Bruce Castle

Bruce Castle Presents: Millar vs. Johns!

Wolverine #70

Wolverine #70 (*****)

Okay, this story isn’t going to change the medium. This issue features a “twist” that I saw coming and you probably will too. But that doesn’t stop this from being one hell of a good time. This book rarely comes out (We get the next one in March I believe), but every time it does it’s on the top of my stack. This thing isn’t even in continuity! I should be waiting for the trade! But I don’t care. I experience so much joy whenever I see that “Old Man Logan” tag. Who knew the elderly could be so pleasing? As I said, the Shyamalan twist isn’t that great, but Millar executes it brilliantly. Better yet, he doesn’t dwell on it. The story progresses and we even get a cool last-page-reveal. Of course, as I’m sure even Millar knows, this book wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is without the art team. Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, Morry Hollowell, I salute you. I’m sure you fine people are responsible for this book’s delays but take your time. I’d rather have Wolverine out twice a year than a rush job. If you aren’t reading this book now, you’re missing out on some wonderful euphoria. Oh well, you guys can still enjoy the trade that comes out next year. Oh, and I love the chosen puppet master behind this issue’s scheme.

Kick Ass #5

Kick-Ass #5 (****)

So, do we all agree that the name, Mark Millar, is synonymous with lateness now? Good God, it’s been like five months since the last issue, right? I had to reread the previous four to get up to speed. Oh well, I can’t really hate this book too much. Although I will say that the bit Millar wrote about the comic coming before the movie is bullshite. This issue’s delay is supposedly due to JRJR’s involvement with drawing the animated movie sequence, but I suspect that isn’t the only thing this new movie has influenced. So, last issue we were introduced to Big Daddy, the character Nicholas Cage is playing. Now we’re introduced to the Red Mist, the character McLovin is playing. It seems like the Red Mist gets a lot more screen time than he was supposed to. Anyway, let’s just say I’m really annoyed that the movie and the comic are being produced at the same time. As for the actual issue, there’s not much to say. If you have loved this book like me, then you’ll probably enjoy this. Millar provides some interesting and funny stuff and JRJR makes things pretty. Can we have the next issue a little quicker this time?

Green Lantern #36

Green Lantern #36 (****)

Must I talk about the lateness in every damn review?! Is this the price I pay for quality? I guess, but what happened here DC? Wasn’t Shane Davis supposed to draw this? Then Doug Mahnke was shown as the artist on the DC website. And now that we actually get it, Ivan Reis is the on the book. WTF!? Shouldn’t Reis be working on Blackest Night? Oh well, Reis, as always, brings the goods. Seriously, I don’t care what you think of Johns, the pictures alone should do it for you. And boy does Reis get to show off this issue. We get to see the Red Lantern world, the Blue Lantern world and the birth of a Pink Lantern. And Reis isn’t the only one who deserves praise. Nei Ruffino, the colorist, also shines as you can imagine. Green, red, blue, he’ll have you wondering if you’ve picked up a Hulk comic by mistake. Hell, even the letterer, Rob Leigh, gets to have fun. That’s right, even the word balloons are outlined in green, blue, and red. This book looks fantastic and Johns continues to build his wonderful cosmic epic.

Justice Society Of America #21 (Variant Cover Edition)

Justice Society of America #22 (***1/2)

And so Johns and Ross’ incredibly long epic concludes. Seriously, this has been about a year and a half in the making. Is it as good as it should be? No, but it’s an entertaining conclusion to a story with limitless potential. I think the main reason for my disappointment is the fact that I failed to realize who was writing my comic. This is Alex Ross and Geoff Johns, these guys live in the past. They, Ross especially, try to tell the same stories they loved as a child. This method is fantastic for kids, but will inevitably leave the rest of us wanting. This is our traditional battle finale. We’ve gotten all that sappy emotion out of the way which makes room for some big combat between the Gods and the men. The fighting ends after some humorous banter and demise of the JSA’s foe. Now we have to get rid of all that Kingdom Come nonsense. Again, KC Superman’s potential seems a bit wasted. Sure he punched a lightning bolt and all that jazz, but for so long he just seemed to blend into the background. Although I will say that Ross, who actually did draw some pages, did give the hero a fitting farewell. I think this review makes it seem like I disliked this issue, but I really did enjoy it. I liked the arc itself even more. Still, as I explained, I can’t help but feel a little sad.

Bruce Castle Presents: The Amazing X-Men!

Amazing Spider-Man #572 (Cover B Variant Edition)

Amazing Spider-Man #572 (****1/2)

Only one more issue left in this arc. I wouldn’t have guessed it when this story began, but I’m actually sad that I can’t read the conclusion until next month. New Ways to Die is topnotch entertainment drawn beautifully by JRJR. It’s so great to see John Romita Jr. back on Spidey. He gets to invent some new characters too which is always cool. Dan Slott also deserves praise. Slott writes Spidey extremely well, but he handles every character with care. Who the heck if this Freak character? Was he always this creepy and crazy or is this more of Romita’s brilliance? We get a cool Bullseye fight, Anti-Venom is further developed, and crazy old stormin’ Norman has some fun too. There may even be some more pleasant surprises, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Go read the issue yourself. This arc gets better and better.

Uncanny X-Men #502 (**)

Uneven would be the word to describe this issue and maybe even the arc. Fraction and Brubaker have worked well together before but something is wrong. They seem to have conflicting opinions. Half of this issue is light hearted and the other half is disturbing. There’s more pointless S&M and even an unnecessary torture scene. Surely Scott knows Emma’s powers right? So, I guess this is just more sadism? Speaking of Emma Frost, apparently she has a tertiary mutation now. The power to turn into Lolo Ferrari (You kiddies at home can turn to page ten in your comic and then Google Lolo Ferrari)! While we’re on the subject of large knockers, Dazzler seems to have quite a pair in this issue as well. This leads to my critique of Land’s art. I’ve always enjoyed his work, but this is the first time I’ve felt dirty while viewing it. A big part of that is the subject matter (Who knows? Cup size may be in the script!), but he should share the blame with Fracker (The best combination of Fraction and Brubaker yet!). I really want to like this comic, but Fracker (I had to say it again) make it hard.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #53 – I Probably Read Too Much Marvel

The Amazing Spider-Man #570-571 (****): Menace is a good guy. Osborn is still a douche. Anti-Venom can take away powers. Mr. Negative has no idea he’s actually Mr. Negative. JRJR still knows how to draw the best Spidey comics anywhere. About the only glaring hole in this entire shebang occurs when Norman finds Parker’s webbed up digital camera. Like, the first thing that popped into my head when Norman made this discovery was “Hey, this is how Osborn figures out Spidey’s secret identity! It’s so obvious!” But, no. What is obvious to almost every single Amazing reader is not as obvious to the malignantly brilliant Osborn. C’mon Norman, grab a clue! Why would Spidey need to cut a deal with some random to sell his photos to the papers? Why couldn’t he just sell them straight up in his civilian identity and cut out the middle man? Norman Osborn, and by extension Dan Slott, equals FAIL.

Eternals #4 (**): Still expertly written, but the low star rating is my personal protest against COVERS THAT LIE! Iron Man does NOT fight Ikaris. Doesn’t happen, people. He just shows up and acts like a jerk. Wow. Big surprise. I expected more from the Knaufs… they did just finish one of the best runs on Iron Man ever, right? BLAH.

Foolkiller: White Angels #2 (***1/2): I liked it, but gosh I wish I’d waited for the trade.

Ghost Rider #26 (****): How does Jason Aaron do it? He brings back four of the lamest villains in comics (straight from the 90’s!) and manages to make me laugh from cover to cover. “I didn’t get to be called Death Ninja by being cautious.” RIGHT!?! It’s stuff like this that keeps me coming back. I want to break up with you so bad Ghost Rider, but Aaron is making it kind of impossible. Damn.

Ghost Rider Annual #2 (***): A nice, forgettable one-shot. I don’t think I’ll be getting these annuals anymore.

House of M: Civil War #1 (**): This blew. I was gonna wait for the trade, now I’m just gonna toss this and forget I read it.

The Invincible Iron Man #5 (****): Out of continuity Iron Man FTW!

Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #32 (***1/2): And so, this series of Iron Man comes to a close. Sure we got another War Machine centric SI arc to slog through before the series officially ends, but the star of the show is gone so we might as well call it like we see it. Stuart Moore did an exceptional job filling in for the Knaufs in this final Iron Man tale about doomsday weapons and revenge. It was probably one issue too long, but I really enjoyed it.

Moon Knight #21 (***): Another book I wish I could break up with. I don’t even like this version of Moon Knight anymore, I’m just sticking around for the Thunderbolts. See, if the Thunderbolts’ book had more hero-hunting stories, then I wouldn’t need to read crappy books like Moon Knight to get my fix. UGH.

Ms. Marvel Annual #1 (****1/2): This was very, very, very surprising. Brian Reed can not only write Spider-Man, but write him well. So well in fact, that this felt more like a Spidey annual than a Ms. Marvel one. Ms. Marvel is barely in it and when she does speak it’s only in response to something funny that Spider-Man just said! He totally steals the show. True Believers! I hold this comic up as further evidence that Brian Reed’s Ms. Marvel is boring! BUT! Brian Reed is still a good writer! SO! We must make our voices heard! PLEASE! Marvel, cancel Ms. Marvel and put Reed on Amazing! MAKE IT SO!

The Punisher #61 (**): Oh, God. Reading this is like that feeling you get when you’re at a party and it’s way past midnight and the host/hostess totally wants you to leave, but you’re too much of an idiot or too wasted to pick up the signals and then it gets awkward until finally he/she asks you to leave and then you can no longer be friends because you know that they think you’re an asshole, and…

Punisher War Journal #23 (*): There so many things wrong with this issue that if I actually started to list them out, one-by-one, I’d go insane with rage and tear the damn thing up instead of tossing it in the donation pile. Soooooo… don’t ask.

Runaways #1 (***1/2): NEW READER FRIENDLY JUMPING ON POINT ALERT!!! This book is T-H-I-C-K. It takes a while to read because there’s just so much ####ing dialogue, which I think is fine. All the characters get stuff to talk about and say and no one gets left out. My only complaint is that although I still enjoy Ramos’ art, his latest style choices make the comic hard to read at times. He’s putting extra effort into the backgrounds and I think that’s at least part of the problem. It’s too confusing; too much stuff to focus on. The mall scenes are especially busy. Be that as it may, Terry Moore’s first issue was still miles better than Whedon’s. I’ll be sticking around for at least the first arc, then, I may switch to trade.

Skaar: Son of Hulk #3 (****): Why is this book so late? At least it’s really good, otherwise…

Ultimate Origins #4 (**): Too little, too late. Also, ULTIMATUM = CELESTIALS!

Ultimate X-Men #97 (***): I’ve been enjoying this arc, but this issue had too much emo.

Ultimate X-Men/Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1 (****): This was really fun! But, I can see why some people would hate it. The ideas are a bit tired…

Uncanny X-Men #501 (*): Seriously, Marvel? Rated “T+”? I gotta call bullshit here. Like, what’s with all the X-Men sex scenes? Yeah, yeah, w/e Frac-Baker… your story justifications don’t hold water when you got Greg Land, Super Perv, as one of your regular pencillers. Did Emma Frost really need to stroll around nude for three pages? How is that necessary to the plot? Or are we still trying too hard to be “cutting edge”? GARBAGE.

Wolverine #68 (****): Alright, I’ve bitched enough about this story. This issue? I liked it. I’m ready to be entertained now.

X-Factor: Layla Miller #1 (****1/2): Reading this was bittersweet. It reminded me of the old days, when X-Factor was fun. When XF was good. *sigh* If we could just skip past all the current XF sub-plots and get to the part where Layla Miller returns, that would be swell. Thanks, Peter!

X-Men: Legacy #215 (**): How many times are the X-Men writers going to subject us to this infinitely repeating scene? X-Man “X” is mad at Xavier. HO HO!! Stop the presses! Can’t wait to read that story! No. I can wait. I can wait forever.

X-Men: Manifest Destiny #1 (**1/2): BLAH. Nothing impressive here. The Boom-Boom story was amusing (that word is sooo condescending… LOVE IT!), but the Iceman/Mystique story seems to serve no purpose other than to once again illustrate how stupid Bobby Drake is and how much of an evil #### Mystique is. No thanks.

Bruce Castle Presents: Spider-Man & Invincible Together Again!

Large Cover of Amazing Spider-Man #571

Amazing Spider-Man #571 (****)

If you like John Romita Jr.’s art and you’re looking for a good time (without alcohol or working girls), then you should probably pick this up. New Ways To Die isn’t changing anything or blowing any minds, but it’s still enjoyable. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that. We who read funny books over the age of 13 always want adult material and hard-hitting stories. We must remember that these are still comics. Real law enforcement has little to do with spandex-clad individuals and pumpkin bombs, but this is the norm when it comes to the realm of comics. So please, immerse yourself in a world full of wonderfully drawn Thunderbolts, symbiotes, and goblins.

Invincible #52 (*****)

The new costume bodes well for Invincible. Just like the last one, this issue is marvelous. There are changes, but it’s an easy transition. The most visually noticeable difference, besides the aforementioned new costume, is FCO Plascencia’s colors. Bill Crabtree was on the book for 50 issues, but as of issue #51 he was replaced by Plascencia. Though I still enjoyed Crabtree’s work, to be frank, he’s easily forgotten. The art looks remarkable! Ryan Ottely is the main attraction of course, but Plascencia has noticeably changed the book’s look for the better. This issue appears to be more violent as well. There are two moments in particular that got a holy this and Jesus that from me. And I handle violence extremely well. So, the book looks great and it’s going in an intriguing direction. As always, I hope the next issue comes out quicker.

Marvel Team-Up #14 inspired my title. Go read this, it’s funny.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #49

Air #1 (-)

I can’t really review this book… I have no idea what happened!!! Somebody, anybody… please to explain!!!

The Amazing Spider-Man #568-569 (*****)

“New Ways To Be Awesome” is more like it! Dan Slott, what took you so long to land this gig? Your Spidey rocks! These first two parts did not disappoint, the Mark Waid Venom story in the back did, but that doesn’t detract in the least from the overall story. You could just not read it, or if you’re like me, immediately foget you did. DCBS was thoughtful enough to send me the variant covers for these issues, and usually I could care less, but I like this story so much if they don’t follow through on the variants for parts 3-6 I’m gonna be mighty sore!

Jack of Fables #25 (*****)

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Yes, indeed, my good friend Prof Dresser… the funny is back! Although, I don’t think I buy Robin Page falling for Jack. It’s funny, but seems way out of left field, even with the labored 5-page explanation. However, I do like Priscilla Page finally growing her metaphorical balls. That was cool. The Book Burner? Kind of “meh” on that guy. But still, Jack’s final word balloon of the issue totally made up for it. Heh.

Superman/Batman #51 (****)

I just really loved the art. I loved the 5th dimensional impiness of the Lil’ Leaguers. This is another one of those books that works so well (now that Green and Johnson have taken over) BECAUSE it’s out of continuity… for the most part. It may not have the prestige of Action Comics, but it makes up for it with “Super Funtime Stories”. Isn’t that what comics should be?Yes, I think so.

Quick Hits:
• Action Comics #868 (*****): Another solid issue in the Gary Frank run. Brainic is frightening and cool. Finally.
• Daredevil #110 (*****): It’s hard to believe how mediocre this book used to be. Will the quality change survive Rucka’s departure? Never can tell.
• DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1 (*): A complete and utter waste of time. I wouldn’t have minded it if the story was even remotely cool or interesting. It wasn’t, so I did mind its terribleness. I minded it very much.
• Doktor Sleepless #8 (****): The quality of this story has steadily been on the rise. My favorite scene in this issue was when DS basically told his ex-gf that he was, in point of fact, not sane. I kept waiting for some hint that the good Doktor was still just playing the part of “Cartoon Mad Scientist”, but no such hints were forthcoming. Great choice, Ellis. I’m finally on board for the duration.
• Final Crisis: Rogue’s Revenge #2 (*****): WOW. Best. Comic villains take note, this is how you villain it up, dudes. I love this mini, but I’m glad it’s only three issues. Thanks, Johns.
• Gravel #4 (****1/2): Gravel continues to be the best title Ellis is writing and at the same time not writing.
• Justice League of America #24 (*): As of a month from now, this title is dropped. DO. NOT. CARE.
• Justice Society of America #18 (****):
This, on the other hand, could not be better. KUDOS.
• Robin #177 (***): I like the writing, but color me confused? RIP is still running, isn’t it? Red Robin isn’t Tim or Jason? Methinks lame.
• Superman #679 (***): The less “super” of the two Superman books. James Robinson, why do you suck? Is it a style choice? I just can’t get into this book, it feels like it’s trying to hard. The Lois/Clark conversation/pseudo spat and the “…avenger me!” line were ludicrous. Although, I did really like the final page, and I’m not even a dog-lover!
• Ultimate Spider-Man #125 (***): Bendis continues with this tale I could give two tugs of a… right, I didn’t play the game, but still, that doesn’t mean the comic has to be boring. Am I right?!?
• X-Force #6 (****): Everything we expected to happen happened… and then something unexpected happened to boot. Um, Rhane EATING her dad? There’s no way anyone expected that. If you disagree with me, you are made of lies.

Bruce Castle Presents: The Amazing Iron Man!

Large Cover of The Invincible Iron Man #5 (50/50 Meinerding)

Invincible Iron Man #5 (****1/2)

Ezekiel Stane wears a shirt that portrays Captain America’s skull and beneath it says “TONY WAS RIGHT”. That’s one of the many little extras that Fraction packs into each issue of his Iron Man run. It’s turning out to be a hell of a first arc. Fraction puts his own unique spin on each of the characters and even manages to prominently feature his own original creation, the aforementioned Ezekiel Stane. If you felt a little bored with all the talking last issue, you’ll be pleased that there’s a lot of fighting in this one. The armor clangs and the tough talk is believable. Last issue I complained about Larroca’s art, but I did say he could draw the armor well. So, because of the shiny combat included, the issue looks great. Fraction manages to create an amalgam of continuity wank and new reader friendly material that should please everyone. The finale is shocking and contains a bit of poetic justice. I don’t believe what appeared to happen on the last page is possible, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it. This series continues to impress.

Amazing Spider-Man #570 (****)

This arc is half over. It’s the point when you can usually tell how you’re going to like the story. I’ve enjoyed the previous two issues, but they weren’t very special. Romita’s art is gorgeous and I like Slott’s style. Both creators handle Spidey extremely well and the addition of the Thunderbolts is a plus. But it was nothing more than a slightly above average tale with some laughs and pretty art. That’s not such a bad thing, but villain copycats like the ridiculous Menace and the new Anti-Venom detracted from the stories’ quality. However, after reading this issue, I’m starting to think that New Ways To Die will be better than I once thought. Sure, we have copycat villains, but we have the originals as well. Slott creates fascinating encounters between these baddies which I’m sure will continue. The issue contains a lot of a quality action and an ending that leaves me wanting more. Thankfully, I’ll satisfy that want in only of couple days. This arc isn’t the most original nor is it required reading, but it’s fun, well-written, and did I mention the awesome John Romita Jr. art?

Bruce Castle Presents: Venom Is Popular?

I have to ask a question before we get down to the reviews. Why is Venom getting so much love right now? He isn’t in any newly released movies. He was in Spider-Man 3, but that was a while ago. I heard there will be a Venom movie coming out, but not anytime soon right? It’s not his anniversary. So why is he in Amazing and Ultimate Spider-Man, Thunderbolts, Moon Knight, and even that Venom Origins thing right now? Is there any reason for this?

Amazing Spider-Man #569 (***1/2)

This is the second part of New Ways to Die. It should probably be called New Ways to Make Money. This issue has already sold out according to Marvel. It has another superstar (Adi Granov) cover and it even has the first appearance of a new character. Like last issue, this contains some solid entertainment. We get some beautiful art from JRJR (Twice in one week!) and some impressive writing from Slott. It isn’t anything too spectacular yet, but this issue is produced well and it’s fairly enjoyable.

Ultimate Spider-Man #125 (***1/2)

After how bad last issue was, this is a breath of fresh air. I’m happy to report that USM seems to be back on track with the coolness. The plot seems to be moving along nicely now and there wasn’t any video game flashbacks. The Ultimate Beetle seems incredibly more interesting than last issue and he even has a humorous moment in here. I was a little surprised at the level of violence featured. Venom eats a few things including some people and a horse! I’m not usually too impressed with Immonen’s art, but he brings his A-game here. There’s also a nice Peter and MJ exchange and an intriguing ending. If the improvements continue, this still has the potential to be a pretty good arc.

Bruce Castle Presents: Mark Millar Likes Gore!

Kick-Ass #4 (****1/2)

Billy already wrote a great review about this issue with cool scans. I can’t add too much to that because all I have are words. Words aren’t that important when it comes to Kick-Ass. This series is basically brain candy for the comic fan. Kick-Ass is bloody, sadistic, and fun. This is a quick enjoyable read. There isn’t too much plot, but who cares? This is pure enjoyment. I’m not a big fan of Millar’s shameless promotion (Check out the 1985 promo in this issue. What’s next? A character talking about how much they love Mark Millar?), but this issue did make me laugh out loud so it’s cool. If you’re looking for some fun and really pretty JRJR art, buy this book! Oh and to fit with my presents title, this issue has a lot of gore!

Wolverine #68 (*****)

Like Kick-Ass, this doesn’t have the most substance, but it has a lot of cool flash! I love this arc. It’s an extended What If that’s always a pleasure to read. Millar and McNiven have created an incredibly intriguing future. There are even a couple unexpected twists and turns in this issue. Oh and yes, there is a lot of gore in this issue! The first two have been violent, but we get even more blood and action here. Someone even gets decapitated using a shotgun like a club! Things will probably get even more violent. I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say it again, McNiven’s art looks amazing! i’m extremely pleased that this creative team produced an interesting tale for an overused character.

Spoiler Review: Kick-Ass #4

Like last time, this review is gonna be filled to the ass with spoilers, so… click links at your own risk!

First, a recap… (it has been, like—two months since the last one?!?)

Okay, so when we last left our hero, little Davey was about to—SLAYAGE!!!

The mask, the pre-pubescent body, the swords, the blood, the ###ING Masterlock securing the cape—this chick is creepy as ####!!! Dudes, the killing goes on for FOURSOLIDPAGES. If I saw this girl massacre a roomful of dealers and prostitutes, I’d barely manage to keep my undies clean (and I would probably fail at that), much less have the presence of mind to string words into thoughts like little Davey here.

Alright, I know I just said how much this “Hit-Girl” creeps me out, but L@@K! Look how pretty JRJR makes this page! That’s comic book mastery, folks. I’m convinced, as much sadistic fun as this has been—and it has been tons of fun, obviously—it would not play half as awesome without John Romita Jr. on the art chores. No doubt in my mind about that. Millar, you lucky ####er.

And now, a list of cool shit—flavor, if you will—conventions flipped on their heads, if I may:

+Kick-Ass inspires the masses.
+Kick-Ass also loves the “gay drama”.*
+In Mob towns, real super heroes are not famous.
+The “good guys” don’t let you go after you spill the beans
+…they ####ing KILL YOU!
+…and then LAUGH about it!!

So, there you have it, yet another exciting issue of blood and mayhem. Based on the scans I’ve shown here, you might be under the mistaken impression that issue #4 is all filler, and no killer. You’re wrong, douche! It’s nothing but killer, blind bastards! Oh, you’re asking about the plot. Well, the plot moves, it surely does… slowly… like an iceberg… but it does move. What we get instead (GORE! VIOLENCE! SHOCK!), it’s well worth it in my opinion. Seriously, #### the plot. Seeing JRJR illustrate this shit is the real treat.**

*If you have to ask why this is on the list, no explanation will convince you.
**The same could be said about that much maligned Hulk series, one would think…

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #568

Amazing Spider-Man #568 (***1/2)

I don’t know many people that read this book. Why? Because OMD was terrible. Not only was it terrible, but it also offended many readers. Let’s have Spider-Man, a beloved child icon, make a deal with the devil! Sorry, I had to say it. So a lot of readers like me haven’t even given this title a shot. Recently, Billy put this book on his top ten stating “if you’re not reading BND because of OMD, you’re only hurting yourself, brother” (Who does he think he is, Hulk Hogan?). Thanks to Billy, I finally gave this book a shot. Well, Billy and the fact that Marvel really really really wants you to buy this issue.

Think about it: Dan Slott is writing (I’ve heard he’s the best BND writer), John Romita Jr. returns to Spidey (I’m in the “I love his art” crowd. Oh and does this mean Millar is the reason why Kick-Ass is late?), Mark Waid (insert unfunny quip here) writing a 10 page back-up, Adi Granov (This is obvious I suppose, but I guess this means Favrau is why Viva Las Vegas is late?) drawing that back-up, and look at that Alex Ross (Um, I like Alex Ross?) cover!

First off, I have a few questions. Why are these BND villains so crappy? They all look like a bunch of z-level villains. Also, I thought no one knew Spidey’s identity, but it seems from this issue’s conclusion that someone does. As I said earlier, I haven’t read any of these BND issues, so I expected to be a little confused. I wasn’t though. This is fantastic given this title’s intended audience, new readers and kids. I’m glad this issue accomplishes its objectives. It’s nice to see a good book that kids can enjoy as well. 

I don’t know too much about Dan Slott, but his writing is excellent here. He writes Spider-Man incredibly well. His Spider-Man is actually funny and made me laugh out loud a few times. This is hard to accomplish in comics, but Spider-Man should be able to make you laugh. This is the first issue of the arc so this issue is mostly set-up, but it seems like Slott is building a story that shows a lot of potential.

Of course, Slott has a little help from his friends. I love Romita’s work and I’m pleased to say that his work is quite impressive here. Of course it’s no secret he draws Spidey well, but his interpretation of the new Thunderbolts are truly impressive. Also, those aforementioned crappy BND villains look better than they should. 

The disappointment in this issue lies in the 10 page back-up. This issue is a dollar more than usual because of this tale and it’s unneeded. Mark Waid brings us a story that contains impressive gimmicks and at a first glance it appears to be quite cool. But sadly, this just covers up what I’ve heard called “writer masturbation”. This back-up could have been summed up in a sentence. And really, all the important information is pretty much included in the main story. I would have preferred Waid had written something original, rather than try to unnecessarily add to the main attraction. However, I always enjoy seeing Granov’s art.

Overall, I’m glad I picked this up. It’s well written and it looks great. It’s produced by some fine creators and I get to find out in one week what happens next. It’s okay people, reading BND will not burn your face off.

Spoiler Review: Kick-Ass #3

Wait, doesn’t this come out tomorrow? Well, Mark Millar and Michael Horwitz, over at Marvel, were kind enough to provide PDF previews of Kick-Ass #3 to any review blogs that asked. Obviously, your man Billy Z. was all over that shit. Also, this book is apparently two months late? I don’t normally pay attention to releases schedules, since I pre-order from DCBS everything is late to me. Late or no, I’ll let the book stand on its own merits and judge it in that loose way you’ve come to expect.

This review is going to be filled with spoilers, so… click the links at your own risk!

10,000-ish views is a bit low, yeah?

Bad-ass version of the Star Wars kid? That pretty much describes anyone who isn’t the Star Wars kid. Poor bastard.

YES! Where are they?!?

Honestly, I did not see this coming. The bit right before this, where the girl of his dreams is nice to him all of a sudden was ten tons of conventional dreck. I’m glad Millar did something interesting with it.

A little peek into Millar’s early life?

This seems a little too “real”, but I’m willing to let it slide. I’m sure this is all part of the set-up for when, you know, Kick-Ass gets arrested and sent to County where some big bruiser of a man-queen pops his cherry.

See, I keep asking myself this same question. The answer is: “Get my ass kicked times infinity, unless…”

Kick-Ass gets his ass-kicked… times infinity.

WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS! Well, I was expecting that level of violence, the permanent kind, but not in that way! This is the only answer to the question that was raised earlier. This is the only way the plot will escalate.

WHAT THE FU–!!!

WHO THE FU–!!!

Well, that was definitely worth the wait. This series continues to impress and surprise me. The specter of cliché looms large, but every time it appears as though Millar is about to lose that battle, he zigs instead of zagging and all is saved. If you can’t tell, yes, I love this book!

Thanks again to Millar and Horwitz for making this possible.